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Government Unveils Draft E-Commerce Rules

In a move that may bring some parity between e-commerce firms and their brick-and-mortar counterparts, the government may bar e-tailers from offering deep discounts on products they sell or services they offer.

The draft Consumer Protection (e-Commerce) Rules, 2019, announced by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs on Monday, said e-commerce firms should not “directly or indirectly influence the price of the goods or services” they offer and should maintain a level playing field.

They are also prevented from adopting any unfair or deceptive practices that may influence consumers’ decision to go for their products and services over their competitors’ and forbade them from coming out with misleading advertisements as well as misrepresenting or exaggerating the quality or the features of the goods and services they offered.

They have to have clear-cut refund and exchange policies in place, besides creating a grievance redressal mechanism and mandatory mentioning of the safety and healthcare information of products and services advertised for sale. Besides, they have to display the contract between the marketplace and sellers.

The Department has invited comments on the draft rules before December 2.

Welcoming the draft consumer protection rules for e-commerce, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said it was a positive step to curb malpractices by e-commerce players.

Describing big e-commerce firms as “habitual offenders”, CAIT Secretary, Praveen Khandelwal, said the rules would force e-tailers to be more transparent, impartial and accountable towards consumers. “The Consumer Affairs Ministry has to ensure that e-commerce companies follow the rules not only in letter, but in spirit as well. We have seen that in spite of the FDI policy in place, the e-commerce companies remain violative of the policy right under the nose of the government. Therefore, strict action should be taken against them if the rules are flouted,” he said in a statement.―The Hindu Business Line

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